Film reviews

Valhalla: Legend of Thor – Film Review

If I told you that 2020 was seeing the release of a new film about Thor, based off a long running and beloved comic series, you’d probably be thinking of Marvel; well you’d be damn fools! Whilst the Marvel comic is probably the best known comic book version of the character, there are others. Valhalla: Legend of Thor is based on the Danish comic series of the same name that has been published since 1979. Ha, and you call yourselves comic fans, I bet you didn’t know that, did you?

Valhalla: Legend of Thor sees god of thunder Thor (Roland Møller), and his brother Loke (Dulfi Al-Jabouri), arrive on Earth, taking shelter for the night with a mortal family. Thor offers them a meal from his immortal goat, killing the animal and cooking it over their fire. He tells them that as long as no one breaks any of the bones he can make the bones and skin reform the next morning, bringing his trusted animal back to life. Unfortunately, Loke, being a trickster god, encourages the young Tjalfe (Saxo Moltke-Leth) to break one of the bones.

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The next day Thor is enraged to find that his resurrected goat is now lame thanks to the broken bone. Loke suggests that Tjalfe should be brought back to Valhalla as punishment for his actions, to serve them as a slave. Unbeknown to the gods, however, Tjalfe’s younger sister Røskva (Cecilia Loffredo) sneaks into their wagon and goes with them to the home of the gods. Once in Valhalla they discover that living amongst the gods might not be as amazing as they first thought.

The original comics, and the animated movie from 1986, were something of a slightly comedic take on the characters and the stories; this film, however, is not. If anything it’s one of the most grounded and dour versions of the Viking gods I’ve ever seen. The gods don’t fly around in the sky, their powers are underplayed and sometimes seem a little dull, and they’re dressed like regular folk.  Valhalla looks impressive, but mostly because it’s set in such amazing countryside, not because it’s some huge shining castle in the sky.

Valhalla: Legend of Thor takes a grittier approach to the source material, and this actually makes it much more striking. I don’t want to keep comparing to the Marvel films, but comparing that version of Valhalla and the gods to this one is a stark contrast. One is fantastical, the stuff of myth and legends, the other is a place that looks like it would be pretty miserable to live in. When one of the gods accuses Thor of never being around I understood why he’d be spending his time visiting Midgard, because Valhalla looked pretty shit.

The giants also had a similar approach to them. First of all, they weren’t giant at all. Most of them seemed like regular people. They wore more furs and bones, looking a bit more ‘barbaric’ but were still mostly people. There were hints that they were a little bestial, such as some having tusk-like teeth or growling, but they were still very human looking.

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This probably seems like a lot of criticism, but it’s genuinely not. I enjoyed this grittier take on the world. It made it seem like something that could actually exist, and it made the really magical moments like the rainbow bridge or the giant wolf Fenrir pop on the screen and stand out as special. In a few ways the film reminded me of Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, a game based on Norse mythology that skirted the line between realism and the surreal.

The film wasn’t what I was expecting, even from the trailer. I thought that this was going to be a high action magical adventure movie, but it was a lot more grounded than that, with a more human story at the centre of it. The gods were less godly, and more like real people, which benefited the film. There were also a number of shots that really showed how amazing the Scandinavian countryside is, and those visuals were amazing. Sadly, I feel like the film might get overshadowed by bigger, flashier versions of Norse mythology, which is a shame, as it’s a very cool movie.

Valhalla: Legend of Thor is out now on DVD and Digital from Signature Entertainment.

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